Russian-Backed Separatists Discuss Killing Civilians

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) has released a new signals intelligence (SIGINT) intercept on its YouTube page (link here; see a follow-up report in the Kyiv daily Ukrayinska Pravda here) that it says demonstrates that Russian-backed separatists in the Donetsk area are targeting civilians. As Andriy Lysenko, spokesman for the Ukrainian National Security Council, explained today, the conversation provides evidence that the “terrorists” tried to lay blame for a shelling incident at Stepove on 15 August on Ukrainian forces, with the help of the Russian media.

The SBU intercept is a conversation between “Vovk” (Wolf), the deputy chief of state security for the “Donetsk People’s Republic” and “Korsa,” a female forward artillery observer for a unit of “Grad” 122mm multiple rocket launchers, the weapons that caused civilian casualties at Stepove.

Vovk: Yes.

Korsa: How could you hit Stepove?

Vovk: Where?

Korsa: Stepove.

Vovk: Where is it?

Korsa: It is near Berezove. I gave you position data.

Vovk: I do not know how we could hit it. Are there civilians in Stepove?

Korsa: Yes, there are civilians there. Three of our houses were hit. Little children were in one of the houses. Damn, I am feeling sick.

Vovk: You know what you need? I just got home, poured 150 (grams of vodka) and fucking drank it. Otherwise these things just drive me crazy.

Korsa: 150? I’ll pour today as well.

Vovk: Right. Because the nerves are shot.

The SBU intercepted another conversation between Vovk and Korsa five hours later.

Korsa: Today they made a mistake in coordinates of roughly one minute, they claim. But I gave a range in seconds (i.e. coordinates).

Vovk: The fact remains the fact. Ok, nobody knows about it. The information has been thrown out there that it was the Ukrops (derogatory term for Ukrainian forces) who hit the civilians. I can tell you that nobody is secured here. It’s been done before. This is war.


11 comments on “Russian-Backed Separatists Discuss Killing Civilians”
  1. WJM says:

    While not Donetsk, but Luhansk, this report shows the tension between militants and civilians quite nicely too:

    Also note the Hamas-tactics of launching rockets close to hospitals….and threathening those who ask them to leave….

    As for that vodka….this video, from a week or so ago, might show interesting stacks of psychopharmica, stored in a previous rebel stronghold/hideout (industrial site):

    Not that any of this is unusual/atypical behaviour for any sustained war, but it might also explain the madman^2 in Borodai.
    (Korsakov comes with different symptoms I believe)

    1. 20committee says:

      Vodka, vodka everywhere ….

  2. RRM says:

    I have a couple of questions as an uninformed outsider. Is this common for important communications to be unencrypted like this? We saw examples of these types of recordings being released after the Malaysian flight downing as well as the German BND now being accused of listening to the Secretaries of State. The Russians may be a lot of things but they aren’t that stupid to let these kind of conversations be out in the open, can they? I always felt they were the source of the now notorious Victoria Nuland phone call. You would think that along with the all the major military hardware they would give secure telecommunications to the rebels, especially the leadership. The other question is how do you verify the accuracy of these recordings?

    1. 20committee says:

      It’s tough to fully verify but it sounds right to the SIGINT-trained ear, and the SBU now has a decent track record on such matters. I notice Moscow isn’t releasing any of its SIGINT, which it surely has on Kyiv. Why not?

  3. Alexandre Charron-Trudel says:

    Things are going largely as you predicted, Prof. Schindler

    According to the latest news, we have two critical events. First, there is now definitive proof published by the SBU that Russian forces are operating without identification in eastern Ukraine, and that there have been deliberate attempts to obfuscate with regards to this.

    this is, of course, a war crime under the codices of the Geneva Conventions. “Special War” indeed.

    Second, is the following:

    specifically, the convoy–originally a distraction designed to take media attention away from the creeping invasion of Ukraine by Russia–has now entered Ukraine without the accompaniment of the Red Cross, and without the say-so of the authorities in Kiev. Russia apparently “got fed up with all the delays” and decided to act on its own. Further, Ukraine regards this as an open invasion:

    “Interfax-Ukraine reports that Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, the head of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), has said that the entry of the Russian aid convoy is a “direct invasion” of Ukraine.

    They report (translated by The Interpreter):

    “We qualify this as a direct invasion. Cynically using the cover of the Red Cross, these are military vehicles covered up with documents,” he said to a journalist on Friday in Kiev.

    In recent days we have been witness to a carefully planned and dangerous, risky provocation against Ukraine with the brazen and cynical use of the respected international organisation of the Red Cross – the provocation with the so-called humanitarian convoy,” said the head of the SBU.

    He noted that more than 30 trucks had “illegally started out” in the direction of Ukrainian territory.

    Another Interfax-Ukraine report says that Nalyvaichenko has announced at a briefing today that some of the trucks are in fact to be used as carriers for military supplies for separatist fighters.

    He said that the trucks, which were reportedly only one third filled with humanitarian supplies, will be further loaded with weapons and ammunition, and that these military supplies, along with the food and medicine already loaded, will be delivered directly to separatist fighters.”

    no surprises there. I’m now counting down the days before Ukrainian (or seperatist) fighters open fire on the convoy.
    It should be obvious to anyone now that the last thing this convoy is intended for is “humanitarian aid”; it is a distraction, it is a mask, but most of all it is a cynical and boundlessly hypocritical (especially given Russian criticism of U.S policy vis a vis Syria) attempt to grant Russia the moral high ground, both for domestic purposes as well as the legions of useful idiots who will seek any means by which to criticize the U.S. Lastly, and as you pointed out, this convoy is also a causus-belli in the making; the destruction of a “humanitarian convoy, manned by Russian citizens, would be eagerly lapped up as justification for open intervention in Ukraine. This would explain, at least partially, the recently demonstrated Russian impatience with the speed of processing and cooperation on processing said convoy–actions which the Russian government appears to have interfered with to justify said impatience. The other reason would be that the Russian sponsored fighters are also about to lose.

    Make no mistake. None of this has anything to do with the “rights and protection of russian peoples,” the open lie provided by the Kremlin. As Marcel Van Herpin elaborates (though not without flaws), this is–as with China–about the restoration of the “natural order of things,” that is to say the primacy of the Russian Empire, either through naked territorial agression, finlandization, or a mixture of the two.

    With that in mind, it is funny how so many are screeching about the “crimes” of the U.S, when they are shilling for the very incarnation of all they attribute to the former nation: unaccountable government, the subversion of national interest to the whims of a rich and elite few, revanchism, and territorial aggression based upon thinly veiled racial and cultural superiority screeds that ought to have been firmly buried after the end of WWII.

    1. 20committee says:

      Thank you, I wish I’d been wrong!

  4. Alexandre Charron-Trudel says:

    This is the statement of the Russian foreign ministry regarding this: it’s basically a pretext for war, listing off the crimes of the “Kiev Regime”

    The endless delays hampering the initial deliveries of the Russian humanitarian relief aid to southeastern Ukraine have become intolerable.

    A lorry convoy with many hundreds of tonnes of humanitarian relief aid, urgently needed by the people in these regions, has been standing idle for a week now on the Russian-Ukrainian border. Over this period, the Russian side has made unprecedented efforts in all areas and at all levels in order to complete the required formalities. We have met all conceivable and inconceivable demands of the Ukrainian side and have submitted to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) exhaustive lists of food, drinking water, medications, essential items and diesel generators due to be delivered to Lugansk, where they are urgently needed by women, children and the elderly. These people are experiencing the horrors of daily artillery attacks and air strikes that have resulted in an increasing number of killed and wounded and destroyed the entire vital infrastructure in the area. Time and again, we met requests to check and recheck the shipment route, to coordinate procedures for the shipment’s delivery, and have signed the required documents with the ICRC. We have provided all essential security guarantees and have ensured similar guarantees on the part of the self-defense forces. These guarantees apply to the Russian convoy as well as other humanitarian relief aid being sent to Lugansk by the Kiev authorities.

    At the same time, Kiev has delayed granting its formal consent required by the ICRC for several days, while repeatedly inventing new pretexts and stepping up attacks on Lugansk and Donetsk that involve military aircraft and heavy-duty armored vehicles, targeting residential areas and other civilian facilities. Over the past few days, the Ukrainian side has been launching ballistic missiles, including the deadly Tochka-U missiles, ever more frequently.

    On 21 August, the situation appeared to have been resolved when the Ukrainian authorities finally informed the ICRC of their readiness to start clearing humanitarian shipments for prompt delivery to Lugansk. The Ukrainian side officially confirmed its unconditional consent for the convoy to start moving during a phone conversation between the Foreign Affairs Ministers of Russia and Ukraine. On 20 August, customs clearance and border control procedures were launched at the Donetsk checkpoint. On 21 August, however, this process was stopped, with officials citing much more intensive bombardment of Lugansk. In other words, the Ukrainian authorities are bombing the destination and are using this as a pretext to stop the delivery of humanitarian relief aid.

    It appears that Kiev has set out to complete its “cleansing” of Lugansk and Donetsk in time for the 24 August Independence Day celebrations. It seems increasingly credible that the incumbent Ukrainian leadership is deliberately delaying the delivery of the humanitarian relief aid until there is nobody left to deliver this aid to. Quite possibly, they hope to achieve this result prior to the planned 26 August meetings in Minsk.

    Russia is outraged by the blatant external manipulation of the international experts involved in preparing this operation. An endless succession of contradictory and mutually exclusive signals and messages we have been receiving is a true indication of behind the scenes games for purposes that have nothing to do with accomplishing a set humanitarian objective. Those who are holding the reins and hampering efforts to save human lives, to mitigate the suffering of sick and wounded people neglect the basic principles of society. We have called on the UN Security Council to promptly declare a humanitarian armistice, but these proposals are being invariably blocked by those who pay lip service to universal human values. Last time, this happened on 20 August, when the United States and some Western members of the UNSC declined to issue a statement in support of a ceasefire during the delivery of humanitarian relief aid to Lugansk by Russian and Ukrainian convoys.

    We hereby state once again: All the required security guarantees regarding the passage of the humanitarian convoy have been provided. The ICRC has officially recognised these guarantees. The delivery routes are known, and they have been checked by an ICRC mission. The documents have been drawn up. The shipments have long been ready for inspection by Ukrainian border guards and customs officers who have been waiting at the Donetsk checkpoint in the Rostov Region for a week now. The capitals that display heightened concern for the situation in southeastern Ukraine are well aware of this. The endless artificial demands and pretexts have become unconscionable.

    It is no longer possible to tolerate this lawlessness, outright lies and inability to reach agreements. All pretexts for delaying the delivery of aid to people in the humanitarian disaster zone have been depleted. The Russian side has decided to act. Our humanitarian relief convoy is setting out towards Lugansk. Naturally, we are ready to allow ICRC officials to escort the convoy and to take part in distributing aid. We hope that representatives of the Russian Red Cross Society will also be able to take part in this mission.

    We are warning against any attempts to thwart this purely humanitarian mission which took a long time to prepare in conditions of complete transparency and cooperation with the Ukrainian side and the ICRC. Those who are ready to continue sacrificing human lives to their own ambitions and geopolitical designs and who are rudely trampling on the norms and principles of international humanitarian law will assume complete responsibility for the possible consequences of provocations against the humanitarian relief convoy.

    We are once again calling on the Ukrainian leadership, as well as the United States and the European Union, which are exerting their influence on Kiev, to promptly launch negotiations in southeastern Ukraine and start complying with the accords formalised in the 17 April 2014 Geneva Statement by Russia, Ukraine, the United States and the EU on stopping the use of force, mitigating the humanitarian situation and immediately launching nationwide dialogue that would involve all Ukrainian regions.”

  5. Dieudonne Mbala says:

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    I know that you care so much about this crime so it is important to hold whomever did it responsible.
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